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Lombard out in front after battling nerves


Leader: Zander Lombard
Leader: Zander Lombard

By Brian Keogh

Zander Lombard fired a seven-under-par 65 yesterday to lead the $7.5million Nedbank Golf Challenge just 12 months after finishing joint winner of the European Tour Qualifying School.

The South African (24) heads the 63-man field at halfway by two strokes from Louis Oosthuizen and by four from Belgian Thomas Detry at Gary Player Country Club in Sun City.

"Playing with two legends of the game, it was nervy," said Lombard, who was alongside defending champion Lee Westwood and local legend Ernie Els. "But I settled down quickly with a birdie on the second and it was just all really good vibes from there."

European Ryder Cup captain Pádraig Harrington is tied for 25th on one under after an adventurous, level-par 72 that featured two eagle threes and a triple-bogey eight.

The Dubliner (48) made a three at the par five second, ran up an eight at the treacherous par five ninth, but then made another eagle three at the 10th to get back to two-under for the tournament.

After dropping a shot at the 12th, he birdied the 13th and 14th to move within a shot of the top 10 but finished with back-to-back bogeys.

Portmarnock Links' Robin Dawson was the best of the Irish after the opening stage of the six-round European Tour Q-School in Spain.

The Tramore rookie (24) made three birdies and dropped just one stroke on The Hills Course at Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona to lie joint 33rd, just one stroke outside the crucial top 25.

Dawson is just four strokes behind American John Catlin (29), who shot a bogey-free, six-under 66 on The Lakes Course to lead by one.

Clandeboye's Jonathan Caldwell and Royal Dublin's Niall Kearney shot 71s on The Hills, and Portrane's Gavin Moynihan a 70 on The Lakes, to share 50th place on one under, just two shots outside the top 25.

"I found the Hills Course tough today," said Kearney, who was two over at the turn before coming home in three under.

"There were lots of three and four iron approach shots, so I am very pleased with the comeback."

Moynihan was pleased to get up and down for what he described as an "unreal" birdie at the last for a one-under 70 at the Lakes, where Belfast's Michael Hoey shot a level par 71 to share 80th.

At the weather-delayed Mayakoba Classic in Mexico, Portrush's 2016 winner Graeme McDowell is four shots off the lead.

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